See you in July

Some of you may know I've been more than a bit unhappy about what might be called the current editorial stance. A lot of garbage is going out; a lot of great stuff is getting swept out along with the garbage. There are never any stated criteria, so it's hard to understand e.g. what's so great about lyrics (but only for English-speaking bands!) or guitar chords or "sensitive" prose, and what's so bad about E2 "culture" nodes and short ironical writeups. But the facts remain: E2 has become an irony-free zone.

We are told "don't make shit up". Because somebody might take said shit seriously! And I thought this place was reasonably adult entertainment. Grown-ups are (supposed to be) capable of elementary reading comprehension. For that matter, most 10-year-olds are also capable of the same (case in point: The Tooth Fairy. NOTE TO EDITORS: IT DOES NOT REALLY EXIST!).

I came here mostly to have some fun, and to consolidate some knowledge in certain branches of Mathematics, Computer Science, the area between them, and maybe also what little Physics I understand. These areas have their own culture, and also a few facts. Some things are both.

My writeup on "POB" was removed by a well-meaning editor. I explained its meaning "Prisoner of Bill"; this is common usage in certain portions of the Perl community. But I made 3 mistakes: I said some POBs develop Stockhold syndrome (if you believe they're POBs, you surely believe this is actually true), I forgot to begin the writeup with the word JOKE (although it is also serious), and I forgot to explain the joke at the bottom. In other words, I assumed m4d r34d1ng compr3h3ns1on sk1llz on the part of the reader.
I do my readers the courtesy of assuming they are, in fact, capable of reading and judging what they read. E2 doesn't.

I also tried to develop my own style for technical writing. My preferred method of reading a mathematics textbook is to stop reading immediately after every theorem or lemma, and try my hand at the proof. It really helps me understand how profound the result is, and how it meshes in with the other results. (I cannot claim credit for this method; my best lecturers at university were capable of doing the same thing in class and without stopping the lecture; I just try to tag along.) On E2, I decided to split every result into separate "theorem" and "proof" nodes.

I firmly believe that hypertext demands information be split into small chunks, maybe containing "navigation hints" for the reader. For my technical stuff, the claim/proof split was an important part of this. It also lets me use previous results elegantly: if I say "...using the Schwarz lemma", I want the reader to know she can go to that node and immediately see the important bit: what it is. If she then wants to see a proof, she can navigate to that; if she wants to prove it herself, she has no hints forced upon her. If she already knows what the lemma is, or if she couldn't care less, she never even goes there.

If you want to know more about what I'm on about, you could read some of my stuff on regular languages. Say, read about the balanced braces language, and take it from there.

Some editors disagreed with this stance; I argued with a few of them. Last week, one of my "nodestrings" got the treatment. I wrote up on counting 1 bits, and presented some weird-looking C code to do it. K&R put the code in their The C Programming Language, as an exercise. Evidently they didn't think to force the solution down the reader's throat... it isn't that important, and it's a GREAT puzzle. So I didn't, either. I put a hint in counting 1 bits SPOILER, and an almost complete solution in counting 1 bits SPOILER SPOILER. That way, experienced bit bangers could work it out for themselves, wannabe manipulators of bits could get a hint, and apprentice bit wizards could see how to work out what a really weird C expression does.

You can't see the nodestring any more. An editor nuked the 2 SPOILERS, and told me to put them in with counting 1 bits. What's e's style for technical writing? Hard to tell -- e doesn't have enough of them (certainly not a concentration in any particular field) to tell.

Take a look at Ed Cools. How much irony do you see there? How much hard science? How much Mathematics and Computer Science? Not a lot. 2 out of the last 50 ed cools seem to be there; 6 out of the last 100 (this includes "class", which has other untech meanings).

In other words, we lack editorial expertise in these matters. Then how come stuff in these categories gets nuked? Somebody knew enough about Perl and UN*X culture to nuke POB. Somebody knows enough about writing Mathematics to tell me how to write about counting 1 bits.

So here's my decision: I need to decide permanently when I'm more relaxed. I'll reconsider my position for the next 3 months. I'll come back here sometime in July 2002, and see if I can justify to myself staying on.

That means virtually no contact by /msg, of course. Some of you have my email, or can work it out. Or you can get me at

ariels_314159 -AT-

For a while, I collected nukes I thought unjustified in my scratch pad; you might want to view it.

I hope this is "au revoir", not "goodbye"!